Joshua Rauh to Launch Open Online Course on Retirement Planning

MOOC is designed for individuals who want to create a sound retirement plan, finance professionals, or citizens concerned about public pension policy.

September 17, 2013


Stanford Graduate School of Business will launch its first massive open online course (MOOC) in October, The Finance of Retirement and Pensions, led by finance professor and pension expert Joshua Rauh. The course, which runs for eight weeks starting October 14, 2013, will help participants become more informed decision makers about their own retirement portfolios and about related government programs and policies.

This inaugural Stanford GSB MOOC is part of the school’s initiative to explore the most productive ways to use educational technology. “We see educational technology as an important way to enhance the on-campus experience for our students, as well as a way to have a larger global impact by leveraging Stanford resources,” says Garth Saloner, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business.

According to finance professor Rauh, Americans are more responsible for their own retirement than ever before, and so the open access of the MOOC format is well suited to his course’s subject matter. “Most individuals in the developed world hope or expect to retire someday — to stop working and start living off of their savings, combined with income from pension systems such as Social Security,” he observes. “However, for many people today, their plans to retire are threatened by financial realities.

“Our goal is to help people make better decisions about their own retirement portfolio and investments, and to shed light on U.S. policies that have important implications for retirees and taxpayers,” he says.

With that goal in mind, Rauh explains that the people who will be most interested in his course are individuals who want to develop or enhance their financial plan for retirement, finance professionals in the retirement fund space, and taxpayers who want to know more about government-funded retirement programs and their sustainability.

Rauh’s eight-week class is comprised of two 45-minute online teaching modules each week. Each of the 45-minute modules is, in turn, comprised of easy-to-digest 5- to 7-minute segments that can be viewed at any time. Additional course components include assignments, quizzes, a team project, interactive webinars, forums led by Stanford GSB alumni, and weekly updates from Rauh. Participants can expect to spend a minimum of four hours a week on all of the course elements.

MOOC Culminates in Public Pension Symposium

In addition to some of the unique collaborative elements of the course, The Finance of Retirement and Pensions will culminate in an interactive symposium about the challenges of U.S. pension systems. Called “Innovative Ideas for the Future of U.S. Public Sector Pensions,” the symposium will be held in January 2014 at Stanford Graduate School of Business. The event will feature representatives of the MOOC teams with the five most promising ideas for pension reform, who will present their proposals to a distinguished panel of faculty and experts in finance and public policy. Expenses will be covered by Stanford GSB in collaboration with the Hoover Institution.

Educational Technology at Stanford GSB

To develop the course — which is hosted on the NovoED online learning platform — Rauh worked closely with a dedicated, Stanford GSB course development team that includes instructional designers, motion graphics designers, and video producers. This team was developed under the direction of Ranga Jayaraman, associate dean and chief information officer at Stanford GSB, who describes some of the distinctive features developed for this MOOC, including video lectures that are saved in a presentation format, so that participants can easily review key concepts without having to search through the video lectures; illustrations and motion graphics that enhance the learning experience; and live, news-style webcasts with Rauh serving as host and experts joining via the web.

Jayaraman puts this MOOC in the context of other educational technology projects underway at the school, explaining that one particularly valuable educational technology model being used is the “flipped classroom.” This model allows faculty members to deliver selected instructional content online, which frees up classroom time for enhanced discussion and more interactive formats that reinforce the material and enhance learning. In fact, Rauh will be using the video lectures from the MOOC as part of a class he is teaching this fall at Stanford GSB.

The school is also employing high-definition distance education technologies for a certificate program in innovation and entrepreneurship — called “Stanford Ignite” — launching this year in Bangalore, India, and Paris, France. Stanford GSB has equipped several on-campus facilities with technology that will simulate the classroom experience for participants in international locations off-campus, while allowing faculty to be physically located at Stanford.

In collaboration with the Stanford School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Business also offers a joint online Certificate Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which can be taken at any time by anyone anywhere in the world. Participants may take one course or earn a certificate after completing 8 online courses on topics from Building Business Models and Empathize and Prototype: A Hands-On Dive into the Key Tools of Design Thinking.

“The MOOC platform and distance technologies allow us to extend our expertise beyond our physical campus,” says Jayaraman, “while other educational technologies allow us to strengthen our core on-campus programs, like our two-year MBA. Together, they serve as a foundation from which we can explore other emerging forms of educational technology that will continue to transform the teaching and learning experience.”

By Katie Pandes

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